Last Saturday (21st) we left our pretty little anchorage north of Nuku island and headed west to Ovaka Island, one of the most south westerly islands in the Vava’u Group. We anchored in front of the government primary school. Just imagine going to a primary school right on the beachfront, what a wonderful setting! We spent Sunday being mainly lazy but did do some preparations for our sail south on Monday, including getting the dinghy and outboard motor back on board X-Pat. We even had a dry night!
|Primary School (white roof) on the beach at Ovaka Island|
On Monday, we were up at 4am and left the anchorage at 4:30 am for the 64nm sail south to the Ha’apai group. We left early as we had some reefs to negotiate at our destination and it is best to do this when the sun is still high in the sky and one can see the reefs.
The wind had obligingly swung from south to east and so it was up with the sails and off with the engine and off we went. This was the first time we had hoisted the sails since we arrived in Vava’u, so it was a bit of a novelty sailing again, especially in the dark!
The wind soon picked up to force 3 and sometimes force 4, and we were comfortably sailing along at 7 knots on a lovely beam reach in smooth seas by the time the sun appeared over the horizon. Then the fun really began as we spotted our first humpback whales of the trip, off our port side. They were a reasonable distance off but we still had good views.
Over the nine hours that we were sailing south we counted a total of 20 whales, mostly off in the distance but a few broaching, which was pretty spectacular.
We arrived at the north end of the island of Foa, around mid afternoon and were greeted by our friends Jo and Rob aboard Double Trouble, flying their drone around us, whilst we anchored in a nice sandy patch in between the reefs. It was textbook anchoring, or so we are told!
|At anchor with Double Trouble off Foa Island|
It was great to see Jo and Rob again. We last saw them at Great Barrier Island in New Zealand in March. We joined them at the Sandy Beach resort for drinks where they introduced us to the managers of the resort, Richard and Kushla. We had hoped to do a whale swim with them but they had damaged one of their two boats and so had limited capacity.
On Tuesday we stayed at anchor and went snorkelling with Jo and Rob. We took the dinghies around the north end of Foa and Jo, Rob and Debi snorkelled whilst Pat manned the dinghies. Pat was still suffering with an infected arm after his argument with a pier two weeks ago and was advised not to swim, a shame as the snorkelling was fantastic with the coral in much better condition that it is in Vava’ u.
|The coral at Foa is much more spectacular than in Vava'u|
|Coral at Foa Island|
In the evening we went across to Double Trouble for sundowners and swapped experiences on the best places to visit in Vava’u and Ha’apai. It’s so useful having other people to do the hard work of exploring for you and finding all the best spots.
On Wednesday we motored south just 8 nm and anchored off the Ha’apai Beach resort, which is close to Pangai, the capital village of the Ha’apai group. For all you rugby fans this is where Jonah Lomu’s family are from.
|X-Pat anchored in the distance off Jonah Lomu Park|
We took the dinghy ashore and headed off into Pangai to do our official check in here with customs and have a look around the village. There really isn’t a lot here. Just a few shops with limited supplies. We did find a fuel station, which will be useful to fill the jerry cans with diesel before we leave. We visited the Mariners café, which is a bit of a yachties café run by a Polish woman, Magda. We signed the visiting yachts book. She has books going back to 2001 with a record of visiting yachts. It’s quite interesting to look back through them all.
We then took a fairly long walk to the hospital to get Pat’s arm looked at and to check on Debi’s ear. There was no doctor there as we arrived quite late, but a nurse took a look and was fairly positive about both patients and didn’t think any more antibiotics were needed. Incidentally the hospital was also the birthplace of the King of Tonga, so we were in good hands!
After a total of 9km of walking, which is unheard off these days, we had a rewarding beer(s) back at the Ha’apai Beach resort and pizza with plantain chips. We had a nice chat with the owners, Matt and Jodie, who have been running the place for over 5 years and have basically rebuilt it following a cyclone. We hope to do a whale swim with Matt next week.
We had a slow morning on Thursday recovering from beers and pizza. Debi baked some bread, which was delicious. Then we headed off south and anchored at the northern end of Uoleva island. We went ashore in the afternoon to play with the drone on the beach, which almost ended in disaster but instead ended with some hilarity.
Having flown around for a while getting shots along the idyllic palm lined beach, Pat was just bringing the drone back to land. The secret to successful drone flying seems to be to look at the screen on the controller and fly according to what you see. The mistake is to look at the drone, especially when it is facing you, as the tendency is to steer the wrong way. Anyway to cut a long story short, Pat managed to land the drone about 6m up a tree, overhanging the beach.
Then the hilarity followed. First we tried knocking it out of the tree with a stick but the stick wasn’t long enough. Then Pat tried climbing the tree and shaking the branch but it wouldn’t budge. Then Debi had the questionably brilliant idea that she could reach it with the stick if she sat on Pat’s shoulders. Pat, kidding himself that he was forty years younger than he is agreed! Pat was impressed that he actually managed to stand up with Debi and the stick on his shoulders. However, balance at this point wasn’t part of the equation and after a moment or two of staggering about, Debi managed to do a spectacular backflip off Pat’s shoulder’s and land in a heap on the sand. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt and the stick was also ok! Unfortunately the drone was enjoying nesting in the tree and failed to catch any of this on film.
At this point we decided that our beach acrobatic days were definitely behind us and so Pat set off into the undergrowth to find a bigger stick. This didn’t take long and we then managed to successfully dislodge the drone from it’s nest and get it to drop onto a carefully positioned towel, to avoid landing it in the sand! Thankfully no harm came to the drone, the crew or the two sticks involved! After all that excitement we headed back to X-Pat for one of Debi’s much needed tropical cocktails.
With our recent extensive walk in Pangai under our belt, we decided to go ashore again yesterday and walk around Uoleva island. We had read this would take us 5 hours but had no idea how far it was. We set off in a southerly direction along the idyllic sanding beach lined with palm trees and some other tree species, which have a propensity to snare drones.
At the southern end of the island there is a resort, which specialises in kite surfing holidays. It’s only a small place accommodating 10 people, but we had a chat with some of the kite surfers there. The reef is apparently very unforgiving if you land on it. Raymond and Barry Corbett would love this place, with fairly constant 20 knot trade winds to play with.
We then headed down the east side of the island which is basically just one long sandy beach, probably 5 km, bordered by turquoise waters and shallow coral. It does however face into the prevailing SE winds and the back of the beach was covered in plastic debris. There really is no escape from these ocean plastics now. They are everywhere.
|The endless beach on Uoleva Island|
|Plastic Debris is everywhere.|
According to Debi’s watch we did 11km in total walking on soft sand pretty much the whole way. It took us about three hours in total and we were glad to get back onto X-Pat and have a lazy afternoon, watching whales in the distance.